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Friday, November 03, 2006

Junia, the Apostle: Part 6

I know people are dying to read about the grammar. Ah, yes, the grammar, I am partial to her myself. The truth is that apostolicity is not all that interesting to me but I blog for the love of grammar.

I have read Wallace's article and now I have a series of unanswered questions. Wallace writes,

    1. First, for the lexical issue. ἐπίσημος can mean “well known, prominent, outstanding, famous, notable, notorious” (BAGD 298 s.v. ἐπίσημος LSJ 655-56; LN 28.31).
    2. The lexical domain can roughly be broken down into two streams: ἐπίσημος is used either in an implied comparative sense (“prominent, outstanding [among]”) or in an elative sense (“famous, well known [to]”).
Here are the lexical entries for ἐπίσημος,


    - having a mark on it, marked, stamped, coined, marked
    - in a good sense of note, illustrious
    - in a bad sense notorious, infamous

    Liddell Scott

    - serving to distinguish
    - having a mark, inscription or device on it, esp. of money, stamped, coined
    - notable, remarkable
    - conspicuous, notorious
    - significant


    - splendid, prominent, outstanding, notorious

    Louw Nida

    28.31 Know (28) Well Known, Clearly Shown, Revealed (28.28-28.56) pertaining to being well known or outstanding, either because of positive or negative characteristics - outstanding, famous, notorious, infamous. εἰσιν ἐπίσημοι ἐν τοῖς ἀποστόλοις they are outstanding among the apostles ROM.16:7
I find it surprising that the meaning 'well-known', which is obviously not a literal translation of the word in the first place, was chosen by Wallace as his prefered meaning, and that this turns up in the ESV. Certainly L-N is well-known to be he least literal of all the lexicons and is rarely quoted as proof of anything.

I am even more at a loss to understand how Wallace has broken the lexical domain down into two streams, that of 'implied comparative' and 'elative'. Elative, simply put, implies 'very'. Why is 'outstanding' an implied comparative and 'well-known' elative. Obviously, the L-N intended 'well-known' to be within the same lexical stream as 'outstanding', hence "pertaining to being well known or outstanding." But Wallace contrasts these two.

There is absolutely no evidence to posit two streams of meaning and suggest an implied comparative, on the one hand, and an elative, on the other. However, Wallace's entire argument rests on this.

Here is a definition of elative.
    elative - a word or expression added to a proposition or grammatical unit to emphasize or indicate a greater degree of something. Example: This worker helped people more abundantly than the others did.
I suggest that Wallace has misused the lexical entry from Louw Nida, and he does not admit that the conclusion that L-N comes to is that "they are outstanding among the apostles." I am disappointed to find a lexicon treated like this.

A literal translation of ἐπίσημος must reflect the sense of 'marked' or 'noted' rather than 'known'. My initial foray into Wallace's article has been disillusioning. The KJV phrase 'of note' is as literal as one can get. The ESV is not, so far, an improvement. It is not transparent to the Greek.


At Sat Nov 04, 02:18:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

It seems to me that the problem here is that in English "well known" has two possible meanings.

The first and more general sense, in which the word is often written with a hyphen, is more or less a synonym of "famous", but perhaps rather weaker. It implies that everyone, or at least the great majority, knows the person or thing so described. This sense is not usually qualified by "to" or "by".

The second and more specific sense, without a hyphen, is simply a collocation of the verbal participle "known" and the adverb "well". A person or fact can be known to another person, or known by another person. And this knowledge can be qualified by "well".

Now in the Louw and Nida definition "well known" is clearly being used in the first, general sense, as roughly equivalent to "outstanding" and "famous". But Wallace chooses to apply this definition using the word in the second sense, that specific people have detailed knowledge about the person. However, there is no indication from the lexicons that the Greek word can ever have this sense. Wallace may be able to find examples in the literature (and I hope that Suzanne will go on to consider the examples he quotes), but unless he finds a number of unambiguous examples we should conclude that episemos cannot mean "well known" in the sense that specific people have detailed knowledge about the person of thing so described - and thus that the ESV reading "well known to the apostles" cannot be justified.

At Sat Nov 04, 11:42:00 AM, Blogger Chuck Grantham said...

It's very hard for the average reader to come up with a sense of the range of meaning for "episemos". It is only used twice in the New Testament: Romans 16:7 and Matt 27:16. In Matthew it refers to Barabbas and is most often translated "notorious".

Small wonder Wallace and Burer went on to search the wider Greek literature to find a range of meaning.

"Apostolos", on the other hand, appears frequently in the New Testament, and has a different sense of meaning for the different writers who use it.

That much one can do with a Greek Concordance to the New Testament.


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